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Final four released for ‘Welcome to Nelson’ sign competition

The competition to re-design the ‘Welcome to Nelson’ signs at three ends of the city has been whittled down to four designs, with voting on the ideas now open — City of Nelson.

Four options for the ‘Welcome to Nelson’ sign re-design have been released for voting in the next phase of the sign design competition.

A competition was staged beginning in August to re-design the ‘Welcome to Nelson’ signs at three ends of the city, after the beloved and “quirky” existing signs were deemed to be at the end of their lifespan.

The city received a total of 30 submissions and with the help of a design review panel — which consisted of seven community members — the designs were short-listed down to four options. Additional consultation with local indigenous groups is expected to take place following the results of the community vote.

“Because the welcome to Nelson signs are the first impression of the city for both residents and visitors, it is important that they reflect our community,” noted city senior planner Sebastien Arcand in his report to council in mid -July.

People can vote for their preferred design and learn more about each design at

New, but the same

The signs were in poor condition, noted a city staff report to council, and, although fixing them was not impossible, matching existing materials was considered to be too difficult.

As well, the city had received some money — a total of $350,000, a cost including the creation of a wayfinding strategy — from the province’s Tourism Dependent Communities Fund to update the three welcome signs.

But the competition — with the first deadline for submissions set at Aug. 13 — is more than just about a sign, it is about identity.

The city gathered feedback on the project through a question posed via ThoughtExchange — in which 1,100 people participated — on “what are the most important things we should consider in exploring new designs for the ‘Welcome to Nelson’ signs?”

According to the ThoughtExchange survey, the vast majority of people wanted the city to maintain a similar design to what was existing, describing the current sign style as “iconic.”

As well, one of the major themes revealed in the survey was the desire to build the sign out of natural materials — wood, stones, etc. — with no plastic, with keeping a unique, quirky and creative look as one of the top considerations.

Phasing it in

That first phase involved a conceptual design — including artist’s statement — and ensured the submissions complied with eligibility requirements and design criteria.

The city-selected design review panel reviewed the designs and 10 were shortlisted and entered into phase two.
In the second phase shortlisted designers submitted detailed designs, including a list of materials, where it was sourced and the cost of construction was estimated. People who submited a complete design package received a $1,000 stipend.

The designs in phase three are brought out into a community vote, with the top three awarded a cash prize. The results of the vote will be presented to council and the final approval will be given.

A request for proposals to implement the successful design will then be issued — including final plans, sourcing of materials, fabrication and installation — as the signs move toward construction.

Any changes to the sign will require approval from the Ministry of Transportation.